Tag Archives: development of sewall’s pooint

The Bulkheaded Spoil Islands of Sewall’s Point, SLR/IRL

Isle Addition March 1966. (Photo Arthur Ruhnke via Sandra Henderson Thurlow's book Sewall's Point.)
“Isle Addition” far left. March 1966. Peninsula of Sewall’s Point with roads at High Point are also visible. Looking south at confluence of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. (Photo Arthur Ruhnke via Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book Sewall’s Point.)

Today I am going to share some aerial photographs that showcase development in Sewall’s Point during the 1960s, specifically, Isle Edition and Archipelago. To give reference, I was born in 1964. During this time and before, the bulkheading of spoil islands was fashionable. Due to environmental restrictions that were put into law in the 1970s,  development on such a scale is no longer allowed.

Bulkheading is basically when one creates a seawall. In the case of a some of the  islands off the Town of Sewall’s Point, they were cleared, bulkheaded, filled with sand, and then developed. In some instances the fill is high enough that these islands are not completely in same flood zones as surrounding areas.

To see flood zones of the Archipelago and Isle Addition type in my address: 18 Riverview Drive then navigate east and south along shoreline. (http://mcgov.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=4b72b96cb58c4e49bbb25ecb5313f681)

According to my mother’s book, “Sewall’s Point, A History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast:”

“High Point’s “Isle Addition” was developed by Bessemer in 1966, during the same years Perry Boswell developed Archipelago. Both subdivisions are on bulkheaded islands that were augmented by dredge-and-fill operations. Since laws no longer allow this type of development, there will never be another one on Sewall’s Point.” -Sandra Henderson Thurlow

This aerial photograph taken in 1960 shows the spoil islands which were to become Isle Addition and Archipelago. (Dillion Reynolds Aerial Photography via Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Looking north. This aerial photograph taken in 1960 shows the spoil islands which were to become Isle Addition and Archipelago. Archipelago is further north. (Dillion Reynolds Aerial Photography via Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book Sewall’s Point.)

The islands I am referring to are spoil islands. They are not natural islands. These islands were created by the ACOE. The 156 mile long Indian River Lagoon has 137 spoil islands; they were formed from 1953 to 1961 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the Intracoastal Waterway — the main channel through the center of the lagoon. The Corps left behind heaps of sand on either side of the channel.

Archipelago developed in 1964. Photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Archipelago first developed in 1964. Photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

I am including this video my brother Todd created about the spoil islands from an earlier blog as it is most fascinating as is the coast history of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon region. Enjoy!

Spoil Island Time Capsule Flight IRL by  Todd Thurlow: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sODqzQ8EW9o&feature=youtu.be)

Earlier blog Spoil Islands: (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/spoil-islands-irl/)

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Bulkheading: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulkhead_(barrier))

DEP Spoil Islands IRL: (http://spoilislandproject.org/about-us/)

Sewall's Point today. Public aerial.
Sewall’s Point today 2015. Public aerial.

Hotels at the Tip of Sewall’s Point along the Indian River Lagoon?

This aerial photograph is from Sandra Henderson Thurlow's  book, "Sewall's Point, the History of a  Peninsular  Community on Florida's Treasure Coast." The photo was taken by Dillon-Reynolds Aerial Photography in 1968, ten years after the "bridges to the sea" were built for transportation and development.
This aerial photograph is from Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book, “Sewall’s Point, the History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast.” The photo was taken by Dillon-Reynolds Aerial Photography in 1968, ten years after the “bridges to the sea” were built to aid in  transportation and development of the area.

Imagine yourself a developer in Florida’s early days along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.  Land is cheap, people are coming, you can dredge and fill, you can create a marina, or bulkhead spoil islands filling and building on top of them, you can cut canals into the land creating more waterfront, and while you are smoking your cigar, you see the peninsula of Sewall’s Point. “Location! Magnificent! A perfect place for a series of hotels right at the tip of the lush pennisula surrounded by water…this would be, simply marvelous!” “Chi-$-Ching!”

Believe it or not, in 1957-1970  that scenario was very much the fate of the Sewall’s Point and the two islands off its tip. The 1957 zoning map, the year the town was incorporated, designated High Point, and the two islands at the southern tip of the peninsula as a “Business-2 Zoning District.”  This zoning designation permitted “hotels with not less than 25 rooms, clubs, multiple apartments, and municipal buildings.” (Historic legal documents referenced in Sewall’ s Point, Sandra  Henderson Thurlow).

Sewall's Point zoning map  1957.
Sewall’s Point zoning map 1957 shows the tip of High Point and two islands zoned for “business.” (Map, Sewall’s Point, Sandra Henderson Thurlow)

So why did not this developer’s dream come true?

“In 1970, a proposal to build multi-family dwellings on Sewall’s Point fell through when the members of the High Point Homeowners Association, working through the town government, defeated the the plan of Bessemer Properties.” (Thurlow)  This was a feat, in that Bessemer was controlled by the Phipps family with wealth from steel manufacturing; they were very powerful.

In 1970, after the confrontation, the town’s zoning map was changed to permit only R-1 residential zoning.

So, if you ever feel discouraged about the state of the Indian River Lagoon or other things,  think of the story of Sewall’s Point, and remember, a small group of determined people can certainly change their world!

 

Aerial of Sewall' Point, 1960 by Dillon-Reynolds Photography, showing new roads in Bessemer's High Point.
Aerial of Sewall’ Point, 1960 by Dillon-Reynolds Photography, showing new roads in Bessemer’s High Point sub-division.